Left: View of the new complete edition of The Interaction of Color (2009). Right: Josef Albers.


Nicholas Fox Weber is the executive director of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation and the author of more than ten books, including The Bauhaus Group (2009) and Le Corbusier: A Life (2008). On December 21, Yale University Press will publish the new complete edition of Josef Albers’s Interaction of Color in a two-volume set with a foreword by Weber.

JOSEF ALBERS ALWAYS EMPHASIZED what was universal and timeless in artistic values. The happenstance of a given time period, the rise or fall of a trend, did not matter to him; in fact, he considered art to be the antidote to the hazards of time. We honor that perspective at the Albers Foundation. Yale has long wanted to do this project, and in 2009, it finally came together.

The Interaction of Color was originally published in 1963 and has long been out of print. Of course there were the usual number of humdrum newspaper articles based on the press release from the publisher at the time. But beyond that, there was tremendous excitement on the part of artists. The book was excerpted in Art News in March of 1963, and it quickly excited artists and art lovers everywhere. Dore Ashton wrote about it in Studio, while certain color scientists and theoreticians responded in technical journals with some of their quibbles.

There are not many differences between the original limited edition and the new complete edition. But naturally, nearly fifty years after the original publication, I try to put the book in a historical perspective in my foreword. At the same time, having been lucky enough to know Josef quite well, I try in my way to make him come alive.

Other than my foreword, the only changes in the new edition are that the text and commentary are bound into a single volume and the 150 color plates that were printed with screenprint technique in the original are now done in offset, taking advantage of advances in that technique. These have been bound in a separate volume. Some of the studies that were in the original––the work based on art by the old masters, and certain leaf studies––are not included in the new volume, but three leaf studies from the archive that were not in the original are in the revised edition. The reason for this is that we wanted to use richly colored originals in order to achieve lively reproductions; we did not want to start out with faded images.

The Albers Foundation was able to provide production and editing supervision for the new edition, and we also located and made available those original leaf studies. Brenda Danilowitz, an expert on Albers’s teaching and on many aspects of his art, has been with the foundation over a period of years; she has gained deep understanding of his color theories, and she was involved in numerous details for this book.

Working with Yale was fantastic. Part of my relationship with Josef was the respect he had for me being a printer’s son, and I was happy to be involved with details like paper selection and slipcase design. We worked with Yale on the cover and the packaging, too. They understood the central importance to Josef of every aspect of design, of texture, spacing, and typeface and respected us as the source of his viewpoints.

— As told to Lauren O’Neill-Butler